ARC452: “Hewers of Wood, Drawers of Water”: Designing Canadian
Energy Futures


Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
University of Toronto, 2021

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Harold Innis famously claimed that Canadians are mere “hewers of wood and drawers of water”; in other words, that Canada is a nation of abundant natural resources ripe for the taking. We now recognize how Innis’ simplistic remark obscures important debates about the role of energy resources in Canada. Current discourses on decarbonization, climate justice, and Indigneous sovereignty (among others) reveal the complex and contradictory perspectives that characterize Canadian energy landscapes. While some argue for the continued extraction of hydrocarbons as a pragmatic "bridge" to a low-carbon future, others advocate for a more rapid (and radical) socio-technical transition. Myriad pathways exist in between, all of which present unique uncertainties and risks. These debates typically unfold in abstract institutional settings or at the local community level. However, their political, economic, and environmental implications resonate across the country and throughout the global energy system.

This course engages contemporary debates on the future of energy in Canada through the lens of landscape architecture. Organized around the structure of a formal debate—affirmative, negative, and rebuttal—the course will explore historical processes of landscape transformation related to the pursuit of energy resources, and will challenge students to analyze and envision potential energy futures through the medium of design.



1. Fieldwork February 2020. Yellow stakes marking opposition to the construction of the Site C Dam and subsequent flooding of the Peace River Valley. Image taken at the farm of Ken and Arlene Boon at Bear Flat.  
Mark